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The Men Behind the Masque:
Office-holding in East Anglian boroughs, 1272-1460
The Structure of Borough Government
1 Martin, "English borough in the thirteenth century," 131.
To this subject we shall return later.
2 Precise origins of the borough court are still somewhat
obscure. See M. Bateson, Borough Customs, Selden Society,
XVIII (1904), xii-xiii, XXI (1906), cxlv-cxlvi; Tait, op.cit.,
30-64; Reynolds, op.cit., 92-96.
3 Martin, "English borough in the thirteenth century,"
4 G. Martin, The Early Court Rolls of the Borough of
Ipswich, (Leicester, 1954), 17.
5 P. Rutledge, Handlist of the Archives of Great
Yarmouth Corporation, (1965), 6.
6 P. Rutledge, The Court Rolls of Great Yarmouth,
7 Martin, Borough and Merchant Community of Ipswich, 139.
8 Ibid., 49; Records of Norwich, I, xliii.
9 With the exceptions of the husting court, control of
which was disputed, and the leet court farmed from the Bishop from
1309; see chapter 7. Arundel's influence was primarily restricted
to the port (Arundel Castle Ms. MD 1472).
10 Most of these documents are still in King's Lynn
archives; a few are in Arundel Castle archives. Gross, op.cit.,
II, 151-70, prints extracts; others have been preserved through
Richards, op.cit., I, 450-66. The bede roll may be found in
R. Howlett, "The early bede roll of the Merchant's Gild at Lynn,"
Norfolk Antiquarian Miscellany, 2nd series, pt.3 (1908), 29-79.
The first extant morowspeche rolls, from the 1240's (Arundel Castle
Ms. MD 426) are among the very earliest original borough documents.
11 Commencing in fact not in the KL/C39 series, but with
the account of 1297/8 (KL/C37/2) stored among the tallage rolls.
12 See W. Hudson and J. Tingey, Revised Catalogue of
the Records of the City of Norwich, (Norwich, 1898).
13 D/B 3/1/1; precise dating is prevented by the fact
that at least one folio is missing from the beginning of this book.
Evidence for earlier administration will be discussed later.
14 Ibid. f.5r.
15 Tait, op.cit., 48-49; D/B 3/1/3 f.6; D/B 3/3/1.
16 See, for example, Cal. Anc. Deeds, III, 8; P.P.R.
31-32 Ed.I m.15r.
17 Martin, "English borough in the thirteenth century," 141.
18 In a volume not now extant, but preserved for us by
N. Bacon, The Annalls of Ipswiche, (1654, ed. W. Richardson
in 1884). His lists are mostly accurate, as far as can be confirmed
from independent evidence.
19 At Maldon too schedules containing lists of elected
officers were attached to several court rolls, and may have been the
source from which the lists in the assembly books were copied.
20 Surveys may be found in L. Gomme, Index of Municipal
Offices, (London, 1879), and J. Round, "Municipal offices:
Colchester," The Antiquary, XII (1885), 188-92, 240-45, XIII
21 See M. Beresford, New Towns of the Middle Ages,
(London, 1967), 218-19 for a modern evaluation of the role of the gild.
22 A. Ballard, ed., British Borough Charters, 1042-1216,
(Cambridge, 1913), lxxxviii, cii, 206-07. See later regarding Norwich
23 Pipe Roll Society, XXXVII (1915), 129; G. Rickword,
"'Haymesokne' in Colchester," Trans. E.A.S., XIV (1915-17),
143; G. Martin, Colchester: Official Guide, 4th ed.,
(Colchester, 1973), 81.
24 H. Swinden, The History and Antiquities of the
Ancient Burgh of Great Yarmouth, (Norwich, 1772), 21; Pipe Roll
Society, new series, XXXI (1955), 111; Rutledge, Court Rolls of
Great Yarmouth, 3.
25 Cal. Anc. Deeds, III, 8; Curia Regis Rolls, 1210-12, 311;
C.Cl.R 1204-24, 147; Abbreviatio Placitorum temp. Ric.I-Ed.II, 92.
Martin, Borough and Merchant Community of Ipswich, 156-58; N.
Scarfe, The Suffolk Landscape, (London, 1972), 101-03.
26 See Tait, op.cit., 188-90, for discussion as to
whether election of reeves was sometimes obtained before grant of fee farm.
27 This account, found in several copies of the Little
Domesday books, is published in Gross, op.cit., II, 115-23.
28 J. Ecclestone, The Rise of Great Yarmouth, (Norwich,
1959), 39; Rutledge, Court Rolls of Great Yarmouth, 11. Saul,
op.cit., 7 was a little uncertain, noting the different numbers
of bailiffs listed in royal records on various occasions (Curia Regis
Rolls, 1207-09, 168, 1225-26, 347; C.Cl.R. 1234-37, 12), but the 8
named in 1208 probably represent the executives of two years or perhaps
a mix of Yarmouth bailiffs and those appointed by the Cinque Ports at
the time of the herring fair (if we may judge from surnames). The
association of four bailiffs with four leets should not be pressed
too far; there is no evidence of direct representation. Colchester,
Ipswich and Norwich also were divided into four leets or wards; in
Norwich this reflected separate settlements made between sixth and
eleventh centuries; in the other two, town ward boundaries paid
little attention to topographic history, parish boundaries, or the
lines of town walls. S. Alsford, Influences Upon the Development of
Urban Administration in Medieval Norwich, (Carleton Hon.B.A. thesis,
1977), 33-41, 53-57; Black Domesday, f.70; E. Cutts, Colchester,
2nd ed., (London, 1889), 96-98; P. Morant, The History and Antiquities
of Colchester, (London, 1768), 94.
29 The two terms, different names for the same office, are
used here only for the effect of distinguishing pre- and post-charter
30 F. Blomefield, An Essay Towards a Topographical
History of the County of Norfolk, (London, 1806), III, 43. The
supporting evidence of Hudson, Records of Norwich, I, xxv, is
31 Ballard, op.cit., 196, 230, 244; Records of
Norwich, I, xxvii, 13; Rutledge, Court Rolls of Great
Yarmouth, 3, (followed by Saul, op.cit., 7-8).
32 C.P.R. 1272-81, 204; Saul, op.cit., 8; Swinden,
op.cit., 219-21. We must make some allowance for local officials
replying to writs in the terms by which addressed.
33 Ballard, op.cit., 226, 246; R.R. 22-23 Ed.III m.3d.
34 Gross, op.cit., II, 116; C.Ch.R. 1300-26, 344.
35 W. Petchey, The Borough of Maldon, Essex, 1500-1688,
(Leicester PhD thesis, 1972), 323-24, map 3; D/B 3/3/10 m.4r.
36 On the origins of Lynn, see V. Parker, The Making of
King's Lynn, (London, 1971), ch.1; H. Clarke and A. Carter,
Excavations in King's Lynn, 1963-70, (1977), ch.7; H. Saunders,
ed., The First Register of Norwich Cathedral Priory, (1939),
50-52, 70-72, from which we learn (pp.30-32) that the Bishop founded
St. Nicholas' at Yarmouth (at that time dominated by Cinque Ports
fishermen) shortly before St. Margaret's at Lynn.
37 Medieval boundaries unknown, but approximate locations
are not difficult to distinguish.
38 Petchey, op.cit., 160, 324.
39 D/B 3/1/3 f.38; D/B 3/1/1 f.2; D/B 3/3/11 m.3d;
C.F.R. 1356-68, 92.
40 Curia Regis Rolls, 1201-03, 151. This jurisdiction stems
from a grant of William Rufus, thus pre-dating the Bishop's interest;
C.P.R. 1327-30, 20.
41 Parker, op.cit., 143.
42 C47/43/255; Arundel Castle Ms. MD 1477; KL/C10/2
ff.117-18. We cannot discount the propaganda aspect of these accounts,
stressing the powers of the alderman in a period of political upheaval,
nor the distortion of tradition over time - some statements are highly
43 Ballard, op.cit., 190.
44 C. Parkin, A Topographical History of Freebridge
Hundred, (Lynn, 1772), 121; Howlett, "Early bede roll of Lynn,"
42; There is no good reason to think this roll was begun in 1204.
45 H. Le Strange made this suggestion in a paper, "Early
mayors of Lynn," Norfolk Archaeology, XII (1895), 229-33,
which otherwise casts little light on the problem. A gradual growth
in the power of an informal mayoralty is also seen in Exeter, Lincoln
and Gloucester; Wilkinson, op.cit., xvi-xvii, xx; D. Duke,
Lincoln: the Growth of a Medieval Town, (Cambridge, 1974), 19;
L. Fullbrook-Leggatt, "Medieval Gloucester," Transactions of the
Bristol and Gloucestershire Archaeological Society, LXVII (1946-48),
46 C.P.R. 1216-25, 100; see also Parkin, op.cit.,
122. Robert is traditionally held to have been Lynn's first mayor;
there is absolutely no evidence to support the story, printed by H.
Ingleby, The Heart of Lynn, (London, 1925), 31, that Sunolf was
first offered the mayoralty but turned it down in favour of his son. It
is possible there is a connection between this selection of a local leader
and the national insurrection that took place immediately before (1216-17),
in which Lynn had some involvement, leading to the king sending a
contingent of troops there and work being undertaken on town defences.
The order of 1217 implies that the town had a mayor at an earlier
time, but we cannot rely on what may simply be royal supposition.
47 Ballard and Tait, op.cit., 32, 362-63, 370;
C.Cl.R. 1231-34, 465; C.Ch.R. 1257-1300, 92; KL/C4/4.
48 C.P.R. 1258-72 passim.
49 Richards, op.cit., 388, 393.
50 KL/C4/4; Reynolds, op.cit., 120; Tait,
51 Tait, op.cit., 234, 255; Records of Norwich,
I, lxi. Ballival duties towards the king were largely taken over by the
sheriffs created at the same time as the mayor who, however, was then
given additional duties as escheator.
52 Ballard, op.cit., lxxxvii, 246; M. Weinbaum,
British Borough Charters 1307-1660, (Cambridge, 1943), 109;
Rutledge, Handlist of Yarmouth Archives, 95; Records of
Norwich, I, xxiii. Geoffrey Martin's statement (Borough and
Merchant Community of Ipswich, 44) that the 1317 charter did not
so much reduce numbers as recognise the custom of two bailiffs being
two of the coroners is based only on the electoral evidence of 1200 and
does not fit with later evidence nor the general theory of the coroner's
53 Rutledge, Court Rolls of Great Yarmouth, 3; Saul,
54 R. Hunnisett, The Medieval Coroner, (Cambridge,
1961), 93-94; Duke, op.cit., 19; Ballard, op.cit.,
lxxxvi; Gross, op.cit., II, 117; Records of Norwich,
I, 138; T. Twiss, ed., The Black Book of the Admiralty or Monumenta
Juridica, II, Rolls Series, no.55, (1873), 51, 56, 152.
55 E.g. I/C5/11/5 m.1r. The link between coroners and
chamberlains, as supervisory officers, is also seen at Gloucester.
56 W. Benham, ed., The Red Paper Book of Colchester,
(Colchester, 1902), 15; Col.C.R., I, 28, 75; Swinden, op.cit.,
136, 495; Saul, op.cit., 31-33, 41; Gross, op.cit.,
57 It is observable from identities of personnel, and was
stated explicitly in Lynn (Add.Ms. 37791, f.50), that only freemen might
be chamberlains, whereas minor officials were often non-freemen residents.
58 J. Wodderspoon, Memorials of the Ancient Town of
Ipswich, (Ipswich, 1850), 128; Gross, op.cit., II, 119;
Martin, Borough and Merchant Community of Ipswich, 72.
59 KL/C37/1 m.7r; no mention of them is made in the 1292
tallage roll. Extracts from the mayoral account are preserved in
Parkin, op.cit., 125.
60 J. Tingey, ed., The Records of the City of
Norwich, (Norwich, 1910), II, xvi, xl; Rutledge, Handlist of
Yarmouth Archives, 123; Rutledge, Court Rolls of Great
Yarmouth, 12-13; Saul, op.cit., 20. Chamberlains first
appear at York in 1289; R. Dobson, ed., York City Chamberlains
Account Rolls, (1980), xx.
61 D/B 3/1/1 f.11b; D/B 3/3/8 m.3d.
62 Red Parch. Bk., 37; Y/C18/1 f.9; KL/C9/1 f.18;
Petchey, op.cit., 180.
63 Interestingly, at Gloucester it was the stewards,
originally performing the duties of coroner, who assumed financial
responsibilities in the early fifteenth century and who were later
called chamberlains; Fullbrook-Leggatt, op.cit., 254-55, 258-59.
64 Black Domesday, ff.74-75; Martin, Borough and Merchant
Community of Ipswich, 72; Twiss, op.cit., 64.
65 Red Parch. Bk., 31-32; Rutledge, Court Rolls of Great
Yarmouth, 4. In Beverley too chamberlains arose, in 1382, in
the context of popular resistance to the government of the town;
A. Leach, ed., Beverley Town Documents, (1900), 7.
66 Records of Norwich, I, 61-62, 194-95; Add.Ms.
37791 f.45; KL/C7/3 f.249b.
67 D/B 3/1/1 ff.22, 33; D/B 3/1/2 ff.9b, 22;
D/B 3/1/3 f.28; D/B 3/3/68.
68 Martin, Borough and Merchant Community of Ipswich,
140; G. Martin, "The records of the borough of Ipswich, to 1422,"
Journal of the Society of Archivists, I, no.4 (1956), 93;
Bacon, op.cit., passim; Records of Norwich, I, 72-74,
II, xli-xlii; M. Grace, "The chamberlains and treasurers of the
city of Norwich, 1293-1835," Norfolk Archaeology, XXV (1935),
182-84; M. Reed, Ipswich in the Seventeenth Century, (Leicester
PhD thesis, 1973), 211-15.
69 Red Parch. Bk., 39; Swinden, op.cit., 493.
70 I/C5/11/1 m.1r; Bacon, op.cit., 104; KL/C9/1 f.16;
KL/C7/2 f.7; KL/C7/3 f.262b.